You wake up on a balmy February morning, tangled in your sweaty sheets. You had a terrible nightmare, and yet even in the light of day it seemed so real. Could it be true? Are there really no longer any ‘firsts’ left in the art world? Nothing truly original? New? Never before seen? Have we really seen the ‘death of the artist’? Are we doomed to a century of endless sequels, bad copies and plagiarism?!

Short answer – yeah, kind of. But, like, chill out about it.

With hefty budget cuts to the arts looming over on us, our capitalist (Abbott-ist) overlords are much less likely to fund the little-art-show-that-could over the big, bland, state productions guaranteed to bring in the punters. Enter the Fringe Festival – the one time of year people confuse Perth with somewhere ‘cool’ and ‘hip’. Fringe is everything the Perth Festival is not. It’s scroungy, homemade, dirty. The shows range from polished burlesque extravaganzas to the worst amateur improv you have seen or ever will see in your life – sometimes within the same hour. Most of it is downright weird, and a lot of it doesn’t work, which is GREAT. Bring on the massive flops! Bring on the hot messes! You can’t have a silent puppet show about fertility without breaking a few eggs.

At Fringe, you will absolutely see some ‘firsts’ – your first angry German accordion stripper; your first 60 second comedic song cycle about the life of Hans Goering; your first live mermaid fish tank. In fact, there’s so much going on during the month of Fringe that the only way to really take full advantage of the artistic buffet is to partake in that famous Perthian ritual, The Fringe Binge. As suggested by the name, a Fringe Binge is not a healthy pursuit. Gorging yourself indiscriminately on bad theatre may lead to unknown after effects – both mental and physical – and thus is not to be undertaken by children, pregnant women or people with heart problems. Or lamo-buzz-kill-squares who don’t know how to have any fun.
A ‘Fringe Binge’ always begins as a gleam in your cheapskate friend’s eye. Everyday, the Fringe website puts up sale tickets or ‘Rush Tix’ for some of the more desirable shows in the festival. You should be checking these deals religiously. For the month of Fringe, make it part of your routine, like your breakfast Instagram browse or your morning crap. Not only will you wind up saving money, but it’s a great way to hear about shows you otherwise would never have thought of checking out. Buy a RushTix for one show – preferably one Margaret or David has reviewed – for either very early or very late in the evening. This leaves you wriggle room to turn this into a full out Binge.

The next step of the Fringe Binge is the most important – the pre-drinking. You are going, sight unseen, to what is essentially amateur theatre. You are going to need to be drunk as hell to get through this night. From one broke-ass student to another, drinks at the Pleasure Gardens may come from a bar that is literally a carousel AND a working fountain, but don’t be fooled – alcohol is still sold at festival prices. Buy yourself a $4 bottle of wine and finish it before you even think about heading to the Cultural Centre. Don’t worry, every other Fringe patron (and most of the performance artists) are all going to be in the same wildly careening boat. You need to be drunk enough to sit through having a woman flapping a giant ham facsimile of a labia in your face, but not drunk enough to volunteer for any audience participation.
When you finally decide to move the party to the CBD, go straight to the giant chalkboards set up next to the State Art Gallery, close your eyes and buy tickets to whatever show you’re pointing at. Go crazy. Gorge yourself on ART. The perfect Fringe Binge combo is one positively reviewed show with some kind of artistic merit, one risqué show so you can feel a little naughty and giggle about the titties with your friends in the back row, and one scary as fuck show that will leave you and everyone you love traumatised for months. As most shows are between 30-60 minutes, it’s perfectly doable to walk out of one tent and straight into another. However, at all costs, avoid the Silent Disco.

As long as you’ve had enough overpriced ciders at the Spiegeltent, none of this will phase you. You’ve paid $5 for this unicycling burlesque show – pretend you’re in Melbourne, try not to get a splinter from the wooden benches and enjoy artistic freedom at its finest. The Artist isn’t dead, they’re simply pretending to be, as part of their debut morgue based burlesque show.

Words by Anna Saxon